Superficial Fun, Troubling Messages in "Freaky Friday"
- Wednesday, August 06, 2003
I know it sounds preposterous to probe for deeper, underlying messages in a movie called “Freaky Friday,” but this competent remake proves both slick and substantive enough to provoke that sort of analysis. Like its fondly remembered 1976 predecessor (starring Barbara Harris and a teenaged Jodie Foster), as well as a mediocre TV movie in 1995, the latest installment exploits the sturdy premise of a Mary Rodgers novel about a high school girl temporarily switching bodies with her middle-aged mother.
The new version makes its gesture to twenty-first century fads by portraying the mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) a single, stressed-out professional on the verge of marriage to the adoring, selfless and preternaturally handsome Mark Harmon. Part of the conflict with her daughter (Lindsay Lohan) involves the teenager’s discomfort at the prospect of a new father in the family -- a reaction that bears no connection to divorce issues, since we discover midway through the movie that Curtis is actually a widow.
The central mother-daughter conflict involves a quirk of Friday night scheduling: the kid’s all-girl rock band gets the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime audition at the House of Blues on the same evening in which she’s expected at the mother’s wedding rehearsal dinner. This detail reflects the consistent cleverness of first-time screenwriter (and former New York Times journalist) Heather Hach: if the choice had involved a rock 'n' roll performance versus the wedding itself, no reasonable observer could have taken the teenager’s side. But since the fifteen-year-old can still promise to attend the ceremony, and only proposes to miss the rehearsal dinner, both daughter and mother get sympathetic arguments to make.
In the course of presenting their respective points at a Thursday night dinner in a Chinese restaurant, the elderly mother of the joint’s owner hands the two quarreling women a pair of mystical, magical fortune cookies. As they eat, they experience a frightening earthquake — which no one else in the restaurant seems to notice. The next day, they awaken to the frightening (and very comical) anomaly of switched bodies: the sulky teenager takes over the physical being of Jamie Lee Curtis, while the hard-driving mother occupies the far more petite form of pert Lindsay Lohan, who previously starred in “The Parent Trap,” another likeable Disney remake.
After a certain amount of shock and screaming, the story proceeds to explore walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes premise we’ve been expecting for a half an hour, and promptly runs into trouble. The difficulty involves its disturbing lack of balance: instead of mother and daughter each learning that her opposite number faces a more challenging, difficult life than she had expected, the movie clearly suggests that parents have it easier than kids. When occupying her mother’s body, the fifteen-year-old heroine has a blast: using credit cards for a shopping spree, driving wildly around town in a fashionable Volvo, undergoing a hip remake that involves additional ear-piercing and a radical hair cut (the day before the mother’s wedding). Mom’s professional work as a psychologist and self-help author turns out to be trivial and easy to fake: by letting loose with her instinctive teenaged spunk on a TV interview show, she enables her mother to enjoy far greater success than she ever knew with her uptight middle-aged outlook. Even motorcycle-riding, high school dream boat (Chad Michael Murray) who represented the girl’s chief crush shows more interest in her when her personality is contained in the body of Jamie Lee Curtis.
Recently on Movie Features
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content